Today is Hagfish Day — a fish that only a fisherman can love. These slimy, eel-like fish are not generally eaten. Their skin is used to make various leather products such as wallets, belts, and other accessories that need to be durable. However, though the repugnant and veniform hagfish is not central to cuisine, their cousins, the lampreys, are edible and the centerpieces of many Old World recipes — including one dish that is served for the British Monarch on special occasions. So, since we can’t share any hagfish recipes with you today, we’ll do the next best thing and share some lamprey recipes for those of you looking for something that is definitely different to add to your recipe repertoire!
Pastry dough for nine-inch pie crust
1 pound eel, catfish, or other fish filets
1/2 C brown bread crumbs (1/3 C if blood is used)
1/4 C wine vinegar (2T if blood is used)
1/4 C fresh eel or fish blood (optional)
1/4 C dry wine
1/4 tsp. each cinnamon and black pepper
Salt to taste
Syrup and Sops:
1 C sweet wine
1/4 tsp. powdered ginger
3 slices firm white bread
1 T brown sugar, or to taste
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a pie pan with the crust, and put it in the oven for ten to fifteen minutes to harden it. Remove it, and reduce oven temperature to 350°.
In a bowl, combine bread crumbs, vinegar, dry wine, cinnamon, salt and pepper (and blood if it is used). Place the eels or fish in the pie crust, and pour the sauce over them. Cover the pie with heavy aluminum foil, with a few holes poked in it. Put the pie in the oven, and bake it for half an hour to forty-five minutes, or until the eels or fish are done. Remove it, and allow it to cool. Remove the foil from the pie, and carefully remove the eels or fish from the pie, and arrange them on a serving dish.
In a saucepan, over low heat, combine half of the sweet wine with the ginger and brown sugar. Carefully pour the sauce remaining in the bottom of the pie crust into the saucepan. Bring the ingredients to a boil, and simmer, stirring frequently, for about five minutes. Line the bottom of the pie crust with the slices of white bread, and pour over them the remaining sweet wine. Then pour the hot syrup over the bread and wine, and serve the sops in the crust, and the eels or fish separately.
Recipe from Gode Cookery.
Beer-Battered Fried Lamprey
2 lbs lampreys, cleaned
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (more to taste)
12 ounces beer (warm or cold, flat or fizzy ~ don’t waste good beer here)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Oil, for frying (any vegetable oil will do ~ you’ll want about 1/2-inch in your pan)
To clean lampreys: after catching and killing the fish, pop it into boiling water for a few seconds to help remove the slimy coating. Though a knife will often be all that’s needed to scrape it away, any remaining vestiges can be rubbed off the skin with a rough cloth. Cut off the tail (usually about 6 inches long), then tie a string around the head and suspend the fish over the sink to drain the blood. Open bronchial holes on the side of the fish and allow the blood to empty Then, remove the intestines and notocordium (the long, dark bitter-tasting organ running down the abdomen). Rinse the fish again and then decapitate it by slicing around the body and pulling off the head. If you don’t want crunchy lamprey, make sure the thick, bony cartilage comes out with the head. Discard both.
To make the batter: Mix the dry ingredients together. Add beer slowly, stirring constantly, until you get the texture of pancake batter. Let sit on the counter at room temperature for at least 20 minutes to allow the gluten to break down.
Cut cleaned fish into 1″ sections and drop into the batter. Heat the oil in a large frying pan to 350°F. Drop the battered fish in the hot oil and cook until golden brown on all sides, about three minutes.